First-ever video footage of elusive West African seahorse

Researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Project Seahorse today released the first-ever footage of a little-known seahorse species.

The video, filmed off the coast of Senegal, shows a West African seahorse (Hippocampus algiricus) being caught and released by local fishers. The animal swims away, unharmed.

The footage is part of a joint investigation between Project Seahorse, Imperial College London, and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) into West Africa’s burgeoning seahorse trade.

Read the entire story or watch the videos below: 

Project Seahorse researchers pull up alongside a group of small-scale fishers off the coast of Senegal. They use traps to catch cuttlefish and other fish. Seahorses are prized bycatch. They are normally dried and sold for export to Asia and around the world. The animals are an important ingredient in traditional medicines. 

Video: Kate West/Project Seahorse

A West African seahorse (H. algiricus) is brought up in the trap, alive. Essentially no research has been done on this little-known species, and it has never before been filmed in the wild. Project Seahorse research indicates that the number of West African seahorses in trade has risen dramatically over the past few years, to exports of about 600,000 seahorses annually. 

Video: Kate West/Project Seahorse

The West African seahorse and another species pulled up in the trap, the better-known short-snouted seahorse (H. hippocampus), swim in a bucket onboard. 

Video: Kate West/Project Seahorse

After studying the seahorse, researcher Kate West convinced the fishers to release the animal back into the wild. In this video, the West African seahorse swims away unharmed. 

Video: Kate West/Project Seahorse

Returning to the boat after her dive, Project Seahorse researcher Kate West talks about the seahorse sighting and the potential impact of her research. Project Seahorse works with governments and regulatory bodies around the world to make sure that seahorse populations have a future.

Video: Karim Sall/Project Seahorse

Joal is the largest artisanal fishing quay in West Africa. Thousands of fishers launch their vessels from here every day, catching coastal and deep-water fishes, as well as large mollusks and even sharks. Much of their catch is destined for European and Asian markets.

Video: Kate West/Project Seahorse

You can learn more about the West African seahorse here and here.

Members of media can download the seahorse video and b-roll footage at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/fotn611y8r109mr/lYOqaMkdXo

This project is generously supported by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and an Erasmus Darwin Barlow Expedition award. Project Seahorse benefits from a marine conservation partnership with Guylian Belgian Chocolate and John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago.